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An Orkney Couple

efter Ann Scott-Moncrieff

by Ingrid Leonard

Peter’s pullan straa across thi back                
o a widden chair-frame wi a silver needle,
thi twine oilan tae gold in thi daylight.
Thi floor below is spread wi owld Orcadians,
flecks o gloy across smudged ink.

He’s half-done; strips o unspun straa
stick oot at thi sides, luk raa, dry.
He’s gaean me brither a lesson
in an owld craft; his strong fingers
continue thi row, hids coorse sewing.

Hid’s no wark for a lass, he tells me.
By thi time I ken him, he waks
stiffly, oot in his workshop till meal-
times served at thi peal o thi cathedral
bell, grim-faced until he greets uis,

wir names booman warm-like roond
Waukmill’s living room. When uncle Jim
Isbister got his death at thi Brig o Waithe –
gaan oot tae check on a neebor,
owld an on her own in an air-raid,

thi bluisk o gunfire, thi rollan moan
o thi Luftwaffe – some season efter
thi bombs fell, Peter cam tae thi door
o his widow sayan, ah’m come
tae luk efter you an thi bairn.

Time wears on. Gret nephews an nieces
are runnan doon thi passage tae thi kitchen,
whar Peter an Lily are slicean a rabbit’s tongue
for thi cat. In thi ley end o their life,
they serve clootie dumpling an custard

at yule-tide, thi shows, keep a Payphone
for B&B guests, dividan its silver spoils
atween thi youngest, peediest hands.
I hated thi quiet street that brithless
bonnie evening, an air so blue it whistled

as I wakked, aged 16, tae a kerfil o fock,
parked by their door, gyte
efter a concert that kept its crowd singan.
Time dandered in thi sky but Lily an Peter
were in bed roond thi back.

gloy – clean straw
bluisk – flash
gyte – crazy, wild
dandered – strolled

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